‘A VIOLENT MAN’ Starring Stephen Odubola

Steve Mackleson is a violent and dangerous prisoner, incarcerated for double murder in a maximum-security prison…

And wracked with inner turmoil about his past sins and unquenchable need for carnage. When Marcus (Odubola) becomes his new cellmate, and a daughter he has never met finally requests a chance to meet her estranged father, Steve must reconsider his nihilistic outlook and brutal outbursts. When Marcus becomes the victim of a revenge attack, Steve steps in to save him and they both become marked men, their sentences set to be cut short, the hard way.

From the opening scene, you are confronted with Violence. Now that may seem obvious, but this brand of violence is brutally honest. There is no Hollywood here, no fantastic choreography, no witty dialogue, just sobering brutality. Which is in direct contrast to some imaginative lighting, framing and composition of shots which would make a theatre art director nod with approval. Ross McCall, in his directorial debut, does little but excel. There is a style and originality here that one would not ordinarily associate with the genre, and a sense of getting out of the actors way so they can deliver, and boy do you want to get out of their way.

The dialogue is one of the most interesting aspects of the film, externally the characters provide mostly slang and almost inaudible chatter at times. This is reflective of a world where very little is given away because words can and will reveal alliances, fears, motivations, and commitments to a course of action that cannot be backed out of. There is nothing accidental in A Violent Man, this is a film that has been crafted to be minimal but what you do get, packs a punch… or a shank. However Craig Fairbrass, in a barnstorming performance, provides a constant line of philosophical introspection that is beautifully contrasted with his monstrous and callous demeanour.

As to be expected with a prison film, thematically we have to deal with regret, rage, loss and control, all accompanied with dull tones, harrowing sounds and music, A Violent Man does not so much haunt or overpower, but feels inescapable. There is resounding futility in the world of the wing and cell that Steve is an extremely self-aware function of as opposed to Stephen Odubola’s Marcus who has to become familiar with and function with the prison, the sentence and the life. This is it until it isn’t.

The film flows nicely from empty spaces filled with hostility and fear to sage pearls of experience and self-reflection from Steve, a hardened man who is exceedingly clear on his identity and the trajectory of his life. If Steve is the anger and the intent, then Marcus is certainly the consequence of the former. Both have to deal with accountability, as Steve ponders a relationship with the resulting consequence of what ended him up in the clink. Steve works through these issues while providing a sort of life orientation to Marcus, while Marcus’ motivation is simply to survive.

L-R : Craig Fairbrass & Stephen Odubola

Steve has lived so much monotony of his life that he knows what the rest of his days will be like. But as he points out, he sees opportunities still available to Marcus. Opportunities for a life unlike the one they both now occupy, but only one has the potential to escape. This is played out through a somewhat unbelievable but enthralling comradeship, or stewardship between Steve and Marcus, not least due to the performances of both Craig Fairbrass and Stephen Odubola, working very well together.

You become intimate roommates with the simmering rage of Steve. Besides this, you also get a sense of paternal protection over Marcus, like an OG looking after a younger. The presence of Steve’s physically imposing demeanour even when not on screen is a foil to Marcus’s exposed nerve of a character. He does not belong, this is a world beyond one he is familiar with and now has no control over the situations and personalities that have control over him; whether they be part of the facility or his fellow inmates. This is portrayed with a real poise by Odubola, who one would expect to either be completely introverted and solemn or extremely animated and erratic. Marcus is both and neither at the same time, which is a credit to the performance of the rising star. When Steve is off-screen, the viewer waits for his return like a white shark, a primal predator. Alternatively, whenever Marcus is off-screen you expect to receive word of a brutal and tragic altercation, he is most certainly prey. That is all to the compliment of Odubola.

Marcus conveys a vulnerability that you wish he didn’t have, for his own protection. A minnow in an ocean, he is by no means a coward, but it doesn’t matter. He is in the real world of larger dogs that eat smaller dogs and the volume of a bark is inconsequential. Odubola’s Marcus does very well with the little he has to work with, both as a character with limited screen time and as an actor providing his own world of a performance to Fairbrass’ Steve who gives an amazing turn. Both give us well-rounded performances that I would have personally liked to have seen potentially in a series format, to develop in front of us rather than visitations of different instances in a film that felt short and long at the same time.

I found A Violent Man to be an enjoyable film, a great advertisement to the depths of both Stephen Odubola and Craig Fairbrass, both should be amply rewarded with acclaim and interest. Even if the film is stretched with cliches, it is still a meal with good mouthfuls to enjoy.

You may only watch it once, but it does the job it set out to do… it shows you violence, the consequences of it and you cannot help but feel it.


Catch A Violent Man In Cinemas and on Digital Platforms Friday 4th February 2022

SUMMARY

A great advertisement to the depths of both Stephen Odubola and Craig Fairbrass, both should be amply rewarded with acclaim and interest. Even if the film is stretched with cliches, it is still a meal with good mouthfuls to enjoy.

OUT OF 100

Soundtrack
60 %
Story
50 %
Acting
80 %
Directing
70 %
For The Culture
20 %
Music
20 %
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